it doesn’t seem like fall and other thoughts on “our” culture

October 8th seems too soon to be out in the yard raking/blowing leaves, yet there I was. My theory this year is that ongoing smaller efforts to remove leaves will be easier than waiting until late Nov./early Dec. after all the leaves have fallen. The subject of ‘race’ and how we as people view race related issues continues to befuddle me. For example, why do some people, whites mostly, consider the children of a black/white relationship to be “black”? Do blacks consider such children to be “white”? I’m bothered that whites continue to view the world revolving around them and their definition of how they think things should be. So what brought this on? Just a comment that the musician Lenny Kravitz was viewed as ‘black’ because of who his mother was. I see him as neither black nor white or maybe both. Does it matter?

Next not-so-random thought- neither my wife nor I have seen an episode of ‘Sex and the City’. (we don’t have cable/satellite) Watching TV recently we saw a GAP ad and my wife commented on how pretty the girl in the ad is. I asked her if she knew who the girl was and my wife said “she was in Square Pegs”. I was going to say something about her being married to Ferris Bueller. (neither of our frames of reference is up to date for Sarah Jessica Parker) She then commented that the guy in the add was good looking. Lenny Kravitz of course.


About Marcus

Who me? Introverted, neurotic, self-absorbed, increasingly cynical observer of human nature and part time social critic in hiding. Most of my life spent avoiding growing up. The naive idealistic passions of youth have evolved into the eclectic eccentricities of adulthood. Northeast Florida small-town native, related to people I can't relate to. Simultaneously my own best friend and worst enemy. Politically and spiritually unaffiliated, my personal ideologies put me all over the map or off it completely.
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13 Responses to it doesn’t seem like fall and other thoughts on “our” culture

  1. vertamae says:

    I’m Caucasian, European American, and I thought Lenny Kravitz is African American, black. He has really dark skin, so I thought he was black. I know nothing of his parentage.
    When I see someone with dark skin and round features, African American, or African in general, appearing, I refer to that person as black. Or if I’m around really sensitive people, like you might be, I’d say African American, but I hate that term. I think in terms of black and white, or mixed race. My grandmother called dark skinned people colored. My mother would yell at her to stop, to call them black. That was before the insistence on calling them African American.
    So, would an Egyptian person living in this country as an American citizen be called black, African American or Egyptian? People forget that Africa is a continent containing many many countries. And some whites, Caucasians, live and have lived for years and years in South Africa, which is a country in the continent, by happenstance in the southern portion.
    You know all this. But would a white person from South Africa who emigrates to the U.S. and becomes a citizen here be referred to as an African American, a white, a Caucasian or a South African?
    My point? Who the hell cares? 🙂
    I recently started watching the syndicated reruns of “Sex and the City”, and it turns out I love the series!
    Have a nice day.

    • marcsuttle says:

      Years ago a family moved in next door who I assumed were European (maybe German) based on their accent. Turns out they are South African. (or Afrikaner-Dutch/German/Belgian) Lenny Kravitz’s was Roxie Roker who played Helen Willis on “The Jeffersons”. On the show she had a ‘white’ husband. Roxie also had a white husband in real life- Sy Kravitz. I think most white people in Europe viewed any darker skinned race (Indian, Pakistani, Turkish, Egyptian, Arab, etc) as ‘black’. Until my teens I referred to blacks as ‘colored’ but most of my relatives especially one grandmother used a more harsh term. (and most still do today)

      • vertamae says:

        See, I don’t think it’s a white thing though. And I heard my friend Laz (he’s Cuban, I guess Cuban/American) use the term Spanish to describe someone today, not “Latino” or “Hispanic”. Spanish is a language, he should know better. Or it’s someone from Spain, but he didn’t mean Spain specifically.
        The black people I work with (95% of the staff) refer to all Latinos as Mexicans, and they are generally very prejudiced against them. I also notice they refer to black skinned people as black. Or, depending, ‘brothers’, or ‘sisters’. Regardless of mixed racial heritage.
        I’m curious as to why you see this as a white phenom.
        I think a lot of white people are sensitive to other whites’ perceptions of other races, but I’m surrounded by black people most of my days, for almost seven years now, and I see a very different picture. I see ‘reverse racism’ that would shock you. Or maybe not. 🙂
        Do you think you have a certain subconscious ‘white guilt’??

      • marcsuttle says:

        I’ve known families that I would consider multi-racial. Caucasian/Oriental, Caucasian/(various S. Pacific)Islanders, Caucasian/Latino, seem to be common.(at least to me) If there are kids, I’ve never known any them to be labeled based on the race of one or the other parent. But as soon as a white/black pairing occurs the kids are automatically labeled ‘black’. I think this is driven by whites and, at least outwardly, the black community seems to accept them as such without hesitation. Like I said in my original post, I’m befuddled as to “why?”. Gary Trudeau had a great strip many years ago that had Mike Doonesbury (against the advice of his white peers) approaching a table full of blacks and asking them why they kept to themselves. The blacks warned Mike away saying they didn’t want to be a part of any white liberal’s education. I grew up in the racially segregated south of the 50’s and 60’s. School desegregation occurred as i entered the 7th grade in 1968. It was a learning process that for me culminated in the 11th grade when I was the only white player on the school’s J.V. basketball team. The team started off with three whites but we lost one to asthma and the other to incurable racism because he couldn’t handle sitting on the bench and watch as the starting five were all black. It wasn’t a big deal to me then or now. It was just “life”. I think there are many subconscious aspects to what was/is/will happen(ing). As a ‘white’ my perspective is defined as such. Having talked with a only whites and blacks about “our” experiences I realize I am limited in my knowledge about what is going on outside my little world between all the races that exist. I just try to deal with what I can see.

      • vertamae says:

        I appreciate your experience. However, I’ve not witnessed what you’re talking about. To me it’s just colors. A dark person is seen as black, and depending on facial features, maybe Indian or Middle Eastern. I’m fair with dark hair and people think I’m Latina or Italian all the time. People want to name things, label things, it’s natural, I think, it coincides with language and description, like the Eskimos having so many words for snow.
        We don’t have common words for mixed races, other than mulatto, and no one uses that word anymore. If offspring of a mixed white/black couple appears black, he/she will be labeled black, and if appears white, white.
        I work in employee services for a HUGE multinational corporation, yet they are so backward they have race on their applications and their is no choice for mixed race at all. We get apps with two circled sometimes, black/American Indian is most common, and the employee must choose one.
        Talk about just plain wrong, that’s the worst I’ve seen.

    • classytart says:

      The white South African/non-African black thing is why “black” tends to be the preferred term, not “African American”. From my research of black Americans.
      Though I’m British and allowed to ask “why the use of ‘American’ everywhere?” 🙂
      Also I’ve found that Americans from Asia prefer “Asian”, while Brits with Asian heritage prefer more specific terms: Indian, Oriental, even, which offends some Americans of “oriental” descent.
      I think there is racism in every racial group, not just whites, but it’s more noticed in white culture because white people took over the world, and were the rulers for a long time, and because there’s the positive measures to fight that. Those get the media attention.

      • marcsuttle says:

        (why the use of ‘American’ everywhere?)
        Because, unfortunately for the rest of the world, we think we are the center of the universe. And we don’t even know how to brew a good tasting domestic beer! (I had a Newcastle tonight, so thanks are due to Mr. Porter if I remember what’s printed on the bottle…but draft is always better when I can find it.)

      • classytart says:

        But that’s exactly why I find it so odd! When one is the only person, it seems weird to state a name, so when it’s the AAA, for example, I find it weird that you (as a nation) need that extra ‘A’. Ours is the AA. Confusingly. 😉
        I have been told of your poor beer, but as someone who never drinks beer, it means very little to me. I can bluff enough to work in a bar, though.

      • marcsuttle says:

        You might get me started on a rant. Americans love to advertise the obvious fact they we are American, even to each other even though I don’t understand why we would think otherwise. American flags show up on everything as if to say “I’m an American dammit and proud to be so!” Stickers on cars, emblems sewn on (non-military) work uniforms, an American flag on top of every business you pass. I wonder who they are trying to convince, others or themselves. The triple A, might have been to avoid confusion with the established ‘AA'(Alcoholics Anonymous), but you make a good point.

      • marcsuttle says:

        Tastes change. Literally. I drank beer in my late teens/early 20’s to ‘fit in’ but I never acquired a taste for it. It had to be very cold and “on tap” (draft) before I actually didn’t mid the taste. I then gave it up until I was in my mid-40’s and sampled some darker micro-brew/english ale varieties. It turned me into a beer snob. I’ll accept or decline invitations to visit a bar(pub) with buddies based on which beers they have on tap. (I turned down an invitation yesterday afternoon for just that reason – a bunch of old lechers sitting around eyeing the seemingly underage waitresses but all I care about is what beer they serve)

      • vertamae says:

        African American applies to Americans with African heritage. That’s why. A black Brit would not be an African American, he/she would be black, or an African Brit. White people are not allowed to refer to blacks as blacks here. We’re sneered at or ostracized of accused of being racist. As I say, I’m generally a white minority every day, five days a week, so I’m a pretty good observer, and this would be in the Deep South/Bible Belt USA.
        White MEN did take over the world, let’s distinguish, or tried to anyway, and they’re not through, witness Iraq.
        But I can tell you that black people in general really despise the white man. Rightly so, perhaps, but it would be like Jews hating all Germans now, wouldn’t it? Does this make sense?
        Do you often research black Americans? Scholastically or what? Curious. 🙂

      • classytart says:

        African American applies to Americans with African heritage. That’s why. A black Brit would not be an African American, he/she would be black, or an African Brit.
        Well, yes. I know I could maybe sound a bit dense there, but that’s not quite my point, my point being that here someone would be “British” or “Pakistani” (say, we have more immigrants from Asia than Africa, or at least a bigger spread of Asian immigrants) or “black” … the term “African Brit” is essentially never used.
        I find the ban on the word “black” where you are very interesting. I’m a question asker, and have never yet met (or encountered online) a black American who prefers “African American”. Though I am very aware of just how white I am as I write all this. I just find these labels, and assumptions, interesting: I make people who ask my heritage guess, and I tend to be assumed Scandinavian/Germanic because I am tall and fair. I’m a basic British mutt as far back as I can trace.
        Fair point on the white MEN, but I’m not a good feminist, and think that distinction is fading: the white woman was still a master to the black slave, while subservient to the white man.
        I think your view might be a Southern US view. I know that mine is decidedly British, with a dose of working and living (briefly) in the top right of the US. I think I worked with the only black man in New Hampshire. 😉 He was a New Yorker, and claimed the word “black”, very definitely. He did not like “African American” because he felt no relation to Africa. He was an American, a New Yorker, and black. Black in the same way that he was tall: it’s just about physical descriptions. He wasn’t offended by African American, it just wasn’t his preference.
        I’ve never officially studied labels and society, though I think some day I will. Like I say above, I’m a questioner. I tend to ask a few too many questions, and manage not to put my foot in it too often. And I read, and watch, and listen. I have studied language, and what words mean, and how they get that meaning, and I often wonder if the loaded terms are loaded because of a sense of the attitude behind them. My grandmother calls all non-whites “coloured”. To her that’s the nice word. The alternatives to her being decidedly negative words like “nigger”. I wonder if in places where there’s more prejudice, there’s more worry about the terms. I know that I’d snarl if some jerk called a gay friend of mine a “poof” from a derogatory stand-point, but I’d not think twice about calling the same gay friend a poof, in a light-hearted, jesting way. Just as they will call me all kinds of names. There is no harm in the intent, so the words don’t matter.
        I’m rambling now. I’ll stop. I think I said what I meant, but it’s very late and I should go to bed. I do find all this fascinating, though.

      • vertamae says:

        True, true, I have lived in the South for 37 of my 43 years, so this is my experience. Since the term was appropriated it has been a progressive black cultural taboo. White people are not ‘supposed’ to refer to blacks as black. The more educated and intellectual the black person the more decided the terminology. They refer to themselves thusly as well. It’s quite common.
        I’ve used words like ‘allowed’ and ‘supposed’, and this is my point, there is almost a fear of blacks by whites, in that political correctness has gone too far, the pendulum now swings the other way. Atlanta is the Southern mecca for blacks, and ‘white flight’ has extended so far north the average work commute is now in the hours, not minutes, with traffice.
        Asking questions is great, you had mentioned research though, so I thought maybe you are writing a paper or a book or something. 🙂
        I find it all fascinating as well, even if we are filling up ‘s inbox. I am also very interested in language and labels. And the word ‘colored’ is now very close to another preferred term: “People of color”.
        Are you old enough to remember Afro American? That was the preferred in the ’70s. And don’t forget Negro, which means black after all. I figure if my description/label hasn’t changed, why do I have to keep changing how I refer to others? Maybe we could just say, “A man”, or “That woman”, “The one with the big hips standing over there, the short hair”, maybe we don’t have to mention color, but it makes it easier to define, just like pointing out the yellow tulips on the side of the road, not the red ones.

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